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St. Mary Magdalen's
Catholic Church
Willesden Green
London NW10
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Friday, May 25, 2012
Our Official Birthday

Pentecost is sometimes referred to as the birthday of the Church. On the surface, it seems quite a sensible title given that it is the day when the power of the Holy Spirit emboldens the disciples to emerge from their isolation and preach the Good News to the devout men and women living in Jerusalem.

However, that’s not entirely true. The real birth of the Church takes place while Christ is on the cross when He Baptises with water from His side and His last breath, the Holy Spirit, and gives His Mother Mary to St John and vice versa. That’s why we call Mary the Mother of the Church – if the Church wasn’t present in those two people then the title would make no sense. Unsurprisingly, Good Friday isn’t really an appropriate day for celebrating a birthday and so, like the Queen, we adopt another day, Pentecost, as our official birthday.

I suspect that most of us celebrate our birthdays less and less as we get older – the novelty wears off and the reality sets in! But that can't be the case with the birthday of the Church. Why? Because the Holy Spirit comes with real power on the disciples and they emerge to preach the news that the ultimate limit on the number of birthdays we will have has been overcome. Therefore, as Christians, we should celebrate the birthday of the Church with more vigour each year because with it we move a step closer to the coming of Christ and our sharing more fully in the Kingdom of God.

Thus, as we celebrate the emergence of the Church into the world today, let us ask for a share in the gifts of the Holy Spirit – wisdom, understanding, right judgement, knowledge, reverence, wonder and awe, and above all, courage – that we may be bold disciples of the Good News in our world of today. Each in our own way is called to do this for as Blessed John Paul II once wrote, “no talent is too small to be used.” Having reached the end of the Easter season and our catechetical programmes I am struck once more by how many people are involved in our parish. From preparing the church and everything in it for the worthy celebration of liturgies, ensuring their smooth and prayerful running, preparing others for their fullest participation in the life of the Church, countless other practical, administrative and spiritual things, and to performing the miracle of being able to bring yourselves and your families to Mass, you all witness to the blessed Pope’s observation that, “Each member of the Church has a unique task which no-one else can take on.”

Recently one of my priest friends was visiting from Norway. He hadn’t seen our church before and after a few moments of reflection he turned to me, smiled and said, “This is a loved church.” I know you do all these things for the love of God, but I hope you will allow me to thank you for whatever your ministry might be. To quote Blessed John Paul again, “The eyes of faith see marvellous things today – countless lay people, women and men, engaged in all sorts of work and activities. They are mostly quite unknown, tireless labourers in the vineyard, who go steadily, through God’s grace. These are the people at once humble and great who are building the Kingdom in our time.”

That means you. God bless you. And happy birthday.

Fr Kevin

posted by Sinead Reekie at 12:26 pm

Friday, May 18, 2012
Call Me Old-fashioned…

Well, I suppose some of you do, but actually I’m just being obedient. However, with that in mind, I do regret to some degree the moving of the feast of the Ascension to a Sunday. The reason for my sadness is that the time now between the Ascension and Pentecost doesn’t leave enough days for the traditional novena leading up to the celebration of the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles.

For us, there are no surprises – Easter Sunday, forty days later the Ascension, and then Pentecost, and that’s the end of the Easter season. For the apostles, it was an emotional rollercoaster. First their Saviour was killed while they hid for fear of suffering the same fate. After there days He came back to life and lived among them and they began to appear in public. At the Ascension, despite having been told by Christ that He was returning to His Father, they felt a deep sense of loss once more and hid in the Upper Room. It was only with the coming of the Holy Spirit that they emerged to preach the Gospel with power.

In the coming week we would do well to put aside our expectations of the liturgical calendar. While we know how things work out, consider how much more effective our preaching of the Gospel might be if we make a genuine effort to pray for the coming of the Advocate who will teach us everything. Let us each take some time in the coming week to enter that place with the apostles and Mary who were one in persevering in prayer as they awaited the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Let us acknowledge our fear of living and preaching the truth to those around us and accept that we need the grace of that Holy Spirit to be truly effective disciples. Fr Kevin

Come, Holy Spirit,
fill the hearts of your faithful,
and enkindle in them the fire of Your love.
Send forth Your Spirit and they shall be created.
And You shall renew the face of the earth.
O God,
who has taught the hearts of the faithful by the light of the Holy Spirit,
grant that by the gift of the same Spirit
we may be always truly wise
and ever rejoice in His consolation.

posted by Sinead Reekie at 11:09 am

Friday, May 11, 2012
Sixth Sunday of Easter 13.05.12
O Come Let Us Adore Him…

You’re probably thinking that your parish priest has finally lost the plot when he entitles a May editorial with the opening line of the chorus from a Christmas carol. But you’d be wrong – I lost the plot a long time ago. On a serious note, you may remember that some months ago I spoke about a church on the Wirral called the Dome of Home, a beacon for sailors returning to the port of Liverpool. Its official name is the church of St Peter and St Paul and St Philomena and it was reopened by Bishop Mark Davies of Shrewsbury in March. The church, while it has a primary school just next door, is not intended to function as a parish but is the first shrine to the Blessed Sacrament erected in this country which will celebrate the sacraments in the Extra-ordinary Form or as some people call it, the “Old Rite.”

Last week I had the great privilege of visiting the church and while it is in desperate need of repair – there is much damage due to damp, the pointing needs attention, some glass is broken and so on – the church itself is beautiful and obviously loved and cared for by the priest and people. And it got me thinking…
The Forty Hours (Quarant’Ore) is a great tradition of the Church which was revived when Pope John Paul II encouraged us to rediscover devotion to Christ truly present in the Blessed Sacrament. Moreover, this year sees the International Eucharistic Congress take place in Dublin. In preparation for this, Pope Benedict XVI encouraged “a rediscovery of the essential role that the Eucharist must have in the life of the Church. The Eucharist [is] the source and summit of Christian life, [and] builds the Church, strengthening her in her unity as the Body of Christ. No Christian community can be built up if it does not have its root and core in the celebration of the Eucharist.”

That said I got to thinking about our patronal feast which falls on a Sunday this year. St Mary Magdalen was devoted to our Blessed Lord and would wish us to have the same love for him. So in preparation for the Eucharistic celebration on her feast, we will have the Forty Hours leading up to it – 18, 19 and 20 July from 10am until 8pm (concluding each evening with devotions) and from 8am until 6.30pm on Saturday 21 concluding with the first Mass of Sunday, the Solemnity of St Mary Magdalen.
While watching before the Blessed Sacrament in silence is a wonderful thing to do (a parishioner said to the Cure of Ars, “I sit here and look at God and God looks at me,”) I would be delighted if various groups would take responsibility for leading devotions during one or more of the hours. Please think about that during the coming weeks and I will put out a list in the near future giving you the opportunity to sign up for various days and times.

And in this stream of consciousness concerning saints and devotions, I’ve noticed that there are at least two pillars in the church which could have a statute by them. Do you have any thoughts about who we might add to our already beautiful devotion to those who intercede for us in the presence of God? I’m open to suggestions. By the way, if you are on the Wirral and wish to visit the dome of home its on Atherton Street in New Brighton. But you won’t need a satnav – just keep going up and up until you get to the highest point and there it is. That is where devotion to Christ should be in all our lives. God bless you all. Fr Kevin

posted by Sinead Reekie at 12:04 pm

Friday, May 04, 2012
Fifth Sunday of Easter 6th May 2012
Spot the Difference
One of my priest friends was in a taxi recently and the conversation got round to religion. It ended abruptly when the driver observed, “Catholic and Muslim is the same, innit. Just Jesus is different.”

It is amusing but does rather underline the creep in our society of a religious and moral pluralism. This is appropriate as I am writing this on the feast of the martyrs of England and Wales. These are the priests arrested and killed for their ministry and those laymen and women who suffered the same fate because they hid them in their homes between 1535 and 1680.

For us, the prospect of being hung, drawn and quartered for our faith is inconceivable. However, there are other ways in which we can participate in suffering for what Christ and His Church believe.

Take for example the headteacher and chair of governors at St Philomena’s school in Croydon and the Catholic Education Service of England and Wales who have been mauled in the national press for upholding the Catholic Church’s teaching on marriage and saying that children should be allowed to support the petition to uphold marriage. The inoffensive wording is, “I support the legal definition of marriage which is the voluntary union for life of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others. I oppose any attempt to redefine it.” But the official response goes, “Schools have a responsibility under law to ensure children are insulated from political activity and campaigning in the classroom.” Goodness knows what else the authorities will try to prevent us teaching by turning our faith into a political issue.

But suffering for our faith can be about more than just words. Bishop John Hine of Southwark joined the Helpers of God’s Precious Infants in a prayer vigil across the road from the Marie Stopes clinic in Maidstone. During the fourth Sorrowful mystery one pro-choice campaigner threw a bucket of water over those praying, another berated one of the priests in an “in-your-face” manner with most appalling language and a third spat at the bishop.

I must admit that I haven’t encountered such hostility outside the Marie Stopes clinic near Warren Street. On the contrary, on my first day there in the freezing cold of winter, one young lady stopped to talk to one of those praying and decided against an abortion and to keep the baby. Prayer does work!

That prayer vigil is organised by the Good Counsel Network. This group of dedicated Catholics offers advice to those contemplating an abortion – they point out the physical and psychological risks and then talk about God’s plan for the mother and baby to women of all faiths and none. Along with the Holy Family Sisters of the Needy, the Network then supports women who have decided not to have a termination in practical and emotional ways. Their ministry is firmly rooted in prayer and they have Mass every day in their chapel at lunchtime followed by Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament during the afternoon which ends with Benediction at the close of the working day. At all times, one of the team is in the chapel praying for the success of their apostolate and once a month they have an all-night vigil.

Naturally all of these structures cost money and the founder and Mother Superior of our own Sisters were thrilled by your Lenten generosity. But I would ask you next week to help the Good Counsel Network with your prayers and any financial assistance you may be able to provide, please.

In the midst of our small trials, we would do well to look at Aunt San Suu Kyi and Chen Guangcheng and ask the martyrs of our country to obtain for us the grace to stand up for what is right and not simply accept the status quo.

Fr Kevin

posted by Sinead Reekie at 12:51 pm